If you’re about to have a baby, you may be overwhelmed with fears about breastfeeding. “What if I don’t make enough milk?” cycles through your brain, along with “What if I can’t handle breastfeeding?”
“New moms always ask about making enough milk,” said Katie Glass, a maternity nurse at TriHealth’s Bethesda North Hospital. “Many don’t know how little a newborn’s stomach can hold.”
“When babies are born, their stomachs start out the size of a maraschino cherry for at least two days, then they go up to the size of a walnut,” Glass said. “Just a little swallow of colostrum can fill up their little cherry bellies, and it’s full of nutrients.”
A mother’s colostrum — a sticky, yellow liquid secreted from the breast — is present for 2-5 days after birth, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
If new moms worry about their babies not eating much for the first day or so, consider that “before birth baby never feels hunger as he is fed constantly via the placenta,” according to the La Leche League. And, with a stomach full of amniotic fluid, your newborn may take a while to get interested in the breast.
Glass said it’s also normal for a newborn to be too worn out to eat after delivery.
“Some babies will only be awake for two hours, and then you can’t get them to breastfeed for the entire full first day, but that’s OK,” she said.
A mother’s milk usually comes in three to five days after delivery. By then, that cherry-sized belly will have stretched to a ping-pong ball, and your baby will be able to accommodate more milk.
When the team at TriHealth’s Associates in OB-GYN looked for ways to support new mothers wishing to breastfeed, they realized they could do more in the months before delivery, rather than two to three days after birth.
“We were asking ourselves, ‘Why are all the nurses and lactation consultants struggling in helping moms learn to breastfeed?’” said Melody Blume, a Registered Medical Assistant and the Back Office Coordinator for Associates in OB-GYN. “It’s because they’re only with the patients for two days, maybe, after delivery.”
Blume said they realized they had a chance to educate and support moms for months before delivery, so they created a breastfeeding initiative and, in April 2019, launched the pilot program.
“It makes more sense that we should be doing this on the front end,” Blume said. “It was an ‘Aha!’ moment.”
Since April, the Associates in OB-GYN team has educated hundreds of prospective new mothers, and Blume said the results are trickling in.
“Those patients who were 20 weeks along in April are coming due,” she said. “The lactation consultants have seen a rise in patients reaching out to them from our group. We’re waiting to see now through labor and delivery, to see if some of our patients will exclusively breastfeed. It’s looking really promising.”
Blume encourages new mothers to go into breastfeeding with their eyes wide open.
“Breastfeeding is going to be different for everybody,” she said. “Somebody’s milk is just coming in like crazy, and maybe someone else’s comes in more slowly. You are an individual, and it’s not a one-way street for everybody. Be prepared for bumps in the road.”
Also, if breastfeeding isn’t right for you — whether it’s a matter of choice or milk supply — both Blume and Glass are quick to alleviate any mom guilt on the matter.
“Feeding your baby is the number one priority, whether bottle or breast,” Glass said. “We’re here to support them and help them and make sure their baby is safe. We won’t let their baby starve.”
If you are pregnant and looking for prenatal care or support for breastfeeding, contact TriHealth Women's Services for more information.